Today is World Ozone Day

September 16, 2015 12:00 am | Updated 05:47 am IST - TIRUCHI:

Reducing our carbon footprint, be it in our personal lives or industrial activity remains key to saving the Earth from environmental degradation, say experts in the city as the world observes the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer on Wednesday.

More commonly known as the ‘World Ozone Day’, September 16 commemorates the Montreal Protocol that was signed on this date by 24 UN member nations in 1987, to limit and ultimately phase out the production of manmade chemicals like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and 95 other ozone-depleting materials.

The slogan for this year “Ozone: All that is there between You and UV” is meant to show how human activity can impact the ozone layer and ultimately, the survival of the Earth and its environment as we know it.

The ozone layer forms a protective shield around the Earth and staves off the ultraviolet radiation of the Sun.

The ‘ozone hole’, refers to an area of depleted ozone levels over Antarctica, which naturally occurs during August to October. “We need to understand that ozone reacts differently at different levels of the atmosphere,” A. Aslam, assistant professor, Botany, Jamal Mohamed College, told The Hindu .

“Ozone in the lower atmosphere is harmful for human and plant life, while in the higher level (stratosphere) it protects our planet against ultraviolet radiation.

“But you cannot produce ozone and mechanically replace it in the depleted area,” said Dr. Aslam, who has extensive research experience in climate change.

He suggested a regulatory mechanism to check the marketing of gadgets using ozone in processes as varied as air-filtering and water-purification.

“It is important for us to see how we can streamline traffic in our city,” said Dr. Aslam.

“In a traffic jam, vehicles that are forced to slow down will have less fuel efficiency. They will emit more gases and CFCs.

The engine heats up, the air-conditioner and paint on the vehicle get affected, and this ultimately increases CFC emissions.” Car-pooling, or using public transport could lead to lesser vehicles on the roads, he added.

At home, consumers could see how much pollutant is emitted by products such as disposable vessels and pre-packaged foods. “When we burn disposable paper and plastic items, they produce CFCs, which is why it is more eco-friendly to use glass tumblers and plates,” said Dr. Aslam.

“Ozone depletion is one of the major impacts of secondary air pollutants,” said M. Premalatha, head, Department of Engineering and Environment, National Institute of Technology, Tiruchirapalli (NITT). While it is easy to see the impact of a primary and inert pollutant such as carbon dioxide on the environment (in the form of global warming), secondary pollutants are faster and more unpredictable in their effect, said Dr. Premalatha.

The department is involved in researching the potential of microalgae versus terrestrial plants to reduce global warming through photosynthesis since 2007. For the process called “carbon sequestration” (a natural or artificial method by which carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere and held in solid or liquid form), the department project used more than 100 strains of microalgae from different locations in India, of which two were identified as being able to absorb carbon dioxide emissions from industries.

The project is now used by Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL), Tiruchi, to study the carbon sequestration capability of various microalgal species in flue gas, at a cost of Rs. 20. 1 lakhs, said Dr. Premalatha.

DEE has signed a memorandum of understanding with Trichy Distilleries and Chemicals Limited to use microalgae to treat organic and inorganic chemicals in distillery effluent.

“Any untreated waste becomes a source of atmospheric pollution,” said Dr. Premalatha.

India’s tropical weather is conducive for the growth of micro-organisms on solid and liquid waste, which is why treatment greater urgency, she added.

“More innovation and inventions are required to solve environmental problems, since each one is unique and no general solutions are available,” she added.

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